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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Big in Japan

Japanese pop culture event Hyper Japan took place between 1st-3rd October. It was a heady mix of fashion, food, gadgets, all things anime and more fashion. How come I didn't know about it until about 3 days before the event?! Clearly I'm losing my touch..

Or perhaps not, as it turned out I was able to nab a press pass through work and escape for some 'serious research' on the Friday afternoon - yay!

I kicked off my taste of Tokyo street culture with an interview with Misako Aoki. Don't know who she is? She undoubtedly has one of the coolest job titles in the world: Japanese Ambassador of Cute. I am not joking. In addition to miscellaneous duties connected to this, she splits her time between working as a model of Lolita fashion (more of that shortly) and a nurse. Oh yes, only in Japan folks.

So what does the Ambassador of Cute look like? Well, positively doll-like:

Don't you just want to go 'aaw'?

After being grilled with questions such as 'don't you ever get tired of being cute?', the interviewer moved on to Tania Tanzil, who apparently is the queen on Lolita fashion in the UK:

Rather impressive hair!

The final guest with Naoki Matsumura, Supervising Editor of Kera Magazine - Japan's top Lolita fashion mag. Here he is looking rather at home between the two lovely ladies:

As you've probably guessed, there were plenty of Misako admirers in the audience and they had even gone so far as to create a little scrap book for her with materials amassed from UK Lolitas. So Lolitas do 'scrappin'? Who knew?

And then all the Lolitas in the audience were asked to come up on stage for a photo opportunity. Tidal wave of cute:

Worth noting that most of the audience had made an effort. This was the view from my seat:

Once the show was over I picked my way through the exhibition, checking out cutesy clothes with kittens and strawberries on. Worth noting that one of the very pretty shirts I picked up cost £125. Yipes! Looking cute obviously does not come cheap.

I'm not sure who this antlered dog was, but I blame him for what happened next..

Just as I had finished photographing the above mentioned deer-dog, I nice lady came up to me asking whether I would mind being interviewed. I hesitated for a millisecond, but then thought 'well, how bad can it be?' Hmmmmmm.

I was brought over to a big screen and introduced to two presenters who indeed seemed to embody the 'hyper Japan' vibe. They began by asking me a bit about myself and I told them I was looking for innovative bits and pieces for our Global Innovation Reports which they seemed to find quite exciting.

Soon I noticed that in addition to being able to see myself on the screen in front of me, there was also text flowing over the picture (mainly in Japanese). I didn't realise until later that I was in fact being broadcast live on the Japanese video sharing/streaming website Nico Nico Douga - 13th most popular website in Japan, if Wikipedia is to be believed. This is Lotta, live from London.. This also made what came next infinitely worse.

I was interrupted during my Global Innovation monologue by one of the presenters who said: 'Are you married? Are viewers would like to know!' I then noticed the over-layed text flowing across the screen, containing the words 'pretty' and 'beauty' along with lots of '8s' which I took to mean that lots of Japanese people were indeed sending me little happy messages from the other side of the globe.

I stammered something about living with my boyfriend, and the screen suddenly filled with little 'yay' and 'boo' messages. Incredible! The presenters then asked if I knew any Japanese music and whether I would sing for them. Erm, hello? A) I don't know any Japanese music, or even any Japanese for that matter B) I cannot sing to save my life. Of course I had to drop myself in it though, by gleefully saying: 'Oh, I don't know any Japanese music, but being from Sweden perhaps Abba would be more fitting?' Me and my big mouth.

The presenters proceeded to do lots of hopping about in excitement and said in unison: 'Yes! You sing 'Dancing Queen!' One, two, three go!' Oh crap. So I had no choice but to perform approximately one verse of 'Dancing Queen'. Live. Oh dear.

They then asked me about my favourite Lolita fashion style, to which I replied that I actually preferred Steampunk. They seemed confused by this so I, obviously beyond mortification at this stage, got my digital camera out and showed them a pic from the last White Mischief party. Obviously one presenter grabbed my camera and proceeded to shove it into the lens of the recording device. The screen filled with 'ooooooo' and 'eeeeeeeee'. I sensed it was time to go.

Walking around the rest of the exhibition, I felt oddly liberated. There were a lot of stalls selling very pink cutesy items:

And pink cutesy foodstuffs (I have no idea what that woman is wearing):

The only other point to mention was that I has to stop by the Kera Magazine stand and purchase a copy or two of the infamous publication. I even had them signed by Miss Misako herself, so there!

Otherwise that was quite enough excitement for one day. However I was back on Sunday for just a little bit more.

Misako and Naoki were back in action, rocking new outfits:

Tania this time sporting a more Gothic look:

Both looking pretty as ever though:

It should be noted that at this point, my camera decided to call it a day and pack up. My iPhone did a grand job of filling the gap, but the remaining pics are slightly more dodgy in their quality - apologies.

There was then a brief fashion show from the main Lolita fashion houses as it were. First up 'Innocent World', showing something of a classic, yet understated Lolita look:

Then 'Sexpot Revenge' showed the punkier side of Lolita fashion:

Lastly, 'Angelic Pretty' showed the popular 'sweet Lolita' look:

Next we were introduced to Mami Honda, Lolita hair and make-up artist extraordinaire:

Mami proceeded to add about 4 hair pieces by 'Loves Change' to Tania's willing head:

Producing something spectacularly bouffant:

Having been lured by the promise of humongous hair volume I decided to check out the 'Loves Change' wig stall and had Mami herself clip some blonde hair pieces into my mane. After a bit of styling, she looked at me and pronounced me 'kawaii'.

It's clear that for most who dress in Lolita fashion, it is only a bit of harmless dress-up fun, although it does worry me when I read articles like this that allude to the darker side of it all.
Personally I am intrigued, and although I may not be sporting dresses with sweeties on any time soon, it was so much fun to experience just a little of Japanese culture ahead of my trip next year.

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